Even if it weren’t a general election, it felt like a bit of a mediocre turnout for a country that prides itself on its cosmopolitan democracy. Nevertheless, the results are in and the people’s mandate seems (reasonably) clear. Once castigated even by some of its activists and bloggers as a spent, unsure force, Labour under Ed Miliband has become a faction to be reckoned with, one that is riding on the wave of anger at the Coalition’s recent blunders, all of them we’re quite familiar with now. It remains to be seen whether Ed Miliband can turn his zeitgeist-compatible “ethical capitalism” into a structured and systematic plan that can be articulated by 2015.

One comforting result for the Conservatives is Boris Johnson’s narrow victory here in London. Like many others who feel a bit detached from the whole carnival (and I’m more ignorant about the nuances of the candidates’ policies than most), Boris is more interesting to watch on telly, and in the mad world of Western politics this seemingly irrelevant peculiarity probably made a big difference. This might be an indictment of us, the electorate. It’s one thing to criticize the ignorance of us British voters and the apathy of us who didn’t vote at all. It is true that a democratic system works properly only if there is intelligent, civil, and sensitive debate in most or all circles about opposing policies. Yet, at the same time, British politics has reached a point where a significant majority does not feel that the democratic system is working properly. I’d argue that this is a symptom of the dissatisfaction with the Government and the Opposition’s policies – blaming the apathy or folly of voters can only go so far.

…the Lib Dems have given in or lost to almost every major policy conflict…

The reality is that we still have platforms of intelligent civic participation that much of the world aspires to. But keeping up with politics is the most futile job in the world. We can make predictions, and we might be vindicated or corrected several years after some distant election, but partisanship and strong passions often trick us into evaluating an outcome or climate far too soon. Who’s to say the re-elected Mayor can deliver the real reforms to our city’s inefficient transport and rip-off prices? Who’s to say that the 200,000 jobs he has promised to create in tandem with the Olympics will be sustainable ones with a decent wage?

More importantly, the past few years have seen some dark days for London and the UK, a maelstrom of complex conflicts that culminated in the riots last year, the 21st century shame of this world-class city. And there is one final thing about Tory backbenchers I can’t understand. This Government is a Coalition because no party managed to obtain the blessing of a popular mandate. It makes sense, then, that since the Lib Dems have given in or lost to almost every major policy conflict with their senior partners, some face is saved via Cameron’s pro-gay marriage stance and reform in the House of Lords. Yet the backbenchers declare that the only way to regain Conservative seats is to hate homosexual people some more?

…their pro-homosexual stance is as relatively sensible and non-partisan as it can get…

To be honest, I think the Prime Minister and Mayor of London’s positions on homosexuality are bang on. It’s not just about the PR or the detoxification of the Tories – if their opponents argue that their economic policies are irrational or ideologically motivated, then at the very least, their pro-homosexual stance is as relatively sensible and non-partisan as it can get, even as religious communities line up to criticize it. And I write this as someone employed by and loyal to a faith organization!


About The Author

A journalist of religion, Raymond is the editor of Buddhistdoor International. He divides his time between London and Hong Kong and can be reached at raymond@buddhistdoor.com.

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